the grand budapest hotel, 2014 (dir. wes anderson, starring: ralph fiennes and adrien brody)
wes anderson is the only director that can get away with this overly hipster style without it being totally insufferable. the large and talented cast play an array of eccentric characters in the fantastical setting of the grand budapest hotel and engage in an enthralling caper that includes murder, young love, and true friendship. ralph fiennes heads up this all star cast as m. gustave, the enchanting concierge that watches over the grand budapest. relative newcomer, tony revolori, as the young lobby boy and gustave’s protege, zero, is a revelation. similar to jason schwartzman’s turn as max fischer in rushmore, he is a breath of fresh air. when one of the hotel’s distinguished guests turns up murdered, gustave is accused and, thus, the caper begins. there is charming hilarity, subtle violence, and sweet romance and friendship. i love when a movie can encompass many different traits.
the grand budapest has all the signatures you find in a wes anderson flick. narration (of which there are three), title cards, artful inserts, actors’ movements that seem almost choreographed, a big name ensemble cast of quirky characters, theatrical lighting, straight on blocking, people crossing through grand landscapes, whimsical locations, and that trademark, perfectly matched score that is practically constant. the distinct framing of essentially every shot will make the hardest core, artistic instagrammers weep out of jealousy and aspiration. as writer and director, anderson is an adept storyteller, creating one of a kind tales that are like old school children’s fables for modern grown-ups. and the grand budapest is one of his best. i thought maybe he had been slipping. i wasn’t as taken with the life aquatic, the darjeeling limited, and moonrise kingdom as i was with bottle rocket, rushmore, and the royal tenenbaums. he’s definitely still got it.
anderson veterans delight, as always, and new additions seamlessly inhabit anderson’s world. bill murray, jason schwartzman, tilda swinton, harvey keitel, willem dafoe, adrien brody, and owen wilson have been in his world before and they effortlessly fall into their oddball characters. new to this distinct acting style that anderson extracts from his thespians is ralph fiennes, saoirse ronan, jeff goldblum, and jude law. they all are up to the challenge and then some. one addition to anderson’s line-up of usual suspects that doesn’t work for me is edward norton. he never seems to fit into the atmosphere that anderson creates. i didn’t like him in moonrise kingdom and i didn’t like him in this. luke wilson would likely have done a great job in both of those roles. norton’s hollow portrayal of police inspector henckels took me out of the fantasy and distracted me from the wonderful spectacle. i enjoy the interesting and unique characters that anderson writes for women, although they are widely outnumbered by the male roles. saoirse ronan and tilda swinton bring so much to this film with its very few female characters.
m. gustave sums up my feeling about the grand budapest hotel and wes anderson’s films, in general, when he describes young agatha (saoirse ronan): “yet without question, without fail, always and invariably, she is exceedingly lovely. why? because of her purity.” anderson’s treatment of great stories is simple and pure and produces a charming and inviting universe that one can only dream of visiting.
rating: 8/10 (*waves fist* damn you, ed norton!)